Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Droughts lasting centuries in West Africa are commonplace
(04/16/2009) New evidence shows that sub-Saharan West Africa has experienced megadroughts in recent history lasting hundreds of years, far worse than the Sahel drought of the 1970s and 80s which left 100,000 dead. To uncover West Africa’s past drought patterns, researchers compiled a year-by-year record of the last 3,000 years of climate in West Africa by looking at annually-occurring layers of sediment in Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana.
Kenya signs its first REDD deal to conserve forests
(04/16/2009) Kenya has signed its first carbon deal to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).
New lichen named after Obama
(04/15/2009) A California researcher has named a new species of lichen after President Barack Obama. Kerry Knudsen of the University of California-Riverside (UCR) named the lichen Caloplaca obamae.
Brazil could triple agricultural output without touching the Amazon rainforest
(04/15/2009) Brazil could triple its agricultural without the needing to clear additional rainforest in the Amazon Basin, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Brazil's Minister of Strategic Affairs, told Bloomberg in an interview. The argument that Brazil can expand its agricultural production without harming the Amazon is a mantra among Brazilian officials. The country has vast tracts of pasture and agricultural land that are being underutilized or have been abandoned, but rapidly appreciating land prices, coupled with poor governance and inconsistent enforcement of environmental laws, means that it is often more profitable to clear new forest land than to rehabilitate pasture.
Bird migrations lengthen due to global warming, threatening species
(04/15/2009) Global warming is likely to increase the length of bird migrations, some of which already extend thousands of miles. The increased distance could imperil certain species, as it would require more energy reserves than may be available. The new study, published in the Journal of Biogeography, studied the migration patterns of European Sylvia warblers from Africa to breeding grounds in Europe every spring. They discovered that climate change would likely push the breeding ranges of birds north, causing migrations to lengthen, in some cases by a total of 250 miles.
Mangroves save lives by softening cyclone’s blow
(04/15/2009) In 1999 a super cyclone struck the eastern coast of India, leaving 10,000 people dead. At the time the Orissa cyclone, named after the Indian state which it battered, was the deadliest storm in India in over a quarter century. However, according to a new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the death toll would have been significantly higher if the mangrove forests buffeting the Indian villagers from the sea had not softened the cyclone’s blow.
Rainforest soy moratorium shows success in the Brazilian Amazon
(04/15/2009) An industry-led moratorium on soy plantings on recently deforested rainforest land continues to show success in the Brazilian Amazon, reports a study released Tuesday by environmental groups and Abiove, the soy industry group that formed the initiative and represents about 90 percent of Brazil's soy crush. The satellite-based study showed that only 12 of 630 sample areas (1,389 of 157,896 hectares) deforested since July 2006 — the date the moratorium took effect — were planted with soy.
Cutting greenhouse gases now would save world from worst global warming scenarios
(04/14/2009) If nations worked together to produce large cuts in greenhouse gases, the world would be saved from global warming's worst-case-scenarios, according to a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study found that, although temperatures are set to rise this century, cutting greenhouse gases by 70 percent the globe could avoid the most dangerous aspects of climate change, including a drastic rise in sea level, melting of the Arctic sea ice, and large-scale changes in precipitation. In addition such cuts would eventually allow the climate to stabilize by the end of the century rather than a continuous rise in temperatures.
Mediterranean bluefin tuna has only three years left unless fishery closes
(04/14/2009) If the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery is not closed, the bluefin will be functionally extinct by 2012 according to a new analysis from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). While the population has undergone steep declines for over a decade, fishery managers and policy-makers have continually ignored calls from scientists that fishing must stop if the Mediterranean bluefin tuna is to survive.
Rainforest conservation gains in U.S. and U.N. climate proposals
(04/14/2009) A proposed mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) figures prominently in the draft climate bill released last month by Congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey as well as a U.N. document posted last week following a climate meeting in Bonn, Germany. Deforestation is the source of roughly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
Trees in trouble: massive die-offs predicted with global warming
(04/13/2009) An experimental study of pinon pines at Biosphere 2 in Arizona shows that an increase in temperature makes the species more susceptible to die-off during drought. When temperatures were increased by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), the piñon pines died 28 percent faster than trees which experienced drought-conditions at current temperatures, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Group devoted to cutting human population receives boost from David Attenborough
(04/13/2009) Legendary filmmaker, broadcaster, and conservationist, David Attenborough has become a patron of the group Optimum Population Trust (OPT). The organization's goal is to use education and policy to lower the world's population.
New Australian dolphin spits at food
(04/13/2009) Only recognized as a new species in 2005, the snubfin dolphin has been observed spitting jet streams of water at schools of fish. Spitting at the fish helps the dolphins round them up into groups where they are easier to catch.
Large population of rare black orangutans found in Borneo
(04/13/2009) A large population of orangutans has been documented by conservationists conducting a survey in a remote part of Indonesia Borneo.
How satellites are used in conservation
(04/13/2009) In October 2008 scientists with the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew discovered a host of previously unknown species in a remote highland forest in Mozambique. The find was no accident: three years earlier, conservationist Julian Bayliss identified the site—Mount Mabu—using Google Earth, a tool that’s rapidly becoming a critical part of conservation efforts around the world. As the discovery in Mozambique suggests, remote sensing is being used for a bewildering array of applications, from monitoring sea ice to detecting deforestation to tracking wildlife. The number of uses grows as the technology matures and becomes more widely available. Google Earth may represent a critical point, bringing the power of remote sensing to the masses and allowing anyone with an Internet connection to attach data to a geographic representation of Earth.
Global warming will hit corn yields, costing US over a billion dollars annually
(04/10/2009) Corn is the staple crop of the US. Its annual yield is more than twice that of any other American crop, covering an astounding 125,000 square miles. However, this behemoth crop is currently threatened. A new analysis by Environment America, shows that lower yields of corn due to global warming will cost farmers 1.4 billion every year.
African pygmies diverged from other humans 60,000 years ago
(04/10/2009) Around 60,000 years ago the ancestors of modern African Pygmies, known worldwide for their small-stature, separated from local farmer populations, according to new genetic research published in PLoS Genetics.
Vanishing forest elephants are the Congo's greatest cultivators
(04/09/2009) A new study finds that forest elephants may be responsible for planting more trees in the Congo than any other species or ghenus. Conducting a thorough survey of seed dispersal by forest elephants, Dr. Stephen Blake, formerly of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and now of the Mac Planck Institute for Ornithology, and his team found that forest elephants consume more than 96 species of plant seeds and can carry the seeds as far as 57 kilometers (35 miles) from their parent tree. Forest elephants are a subspecies of the more-widely known African elephant of the continent's great savannas, differing in many ways from their savanna-relations, including in their diet.
Study confirms that sonar can cause deafness in dolphins
(04/08/2009) A new study in Biology Lettersconfirms what marine biologists have long suspected: loud sonar can cause temporary deafness in dolphins, possibly explaining some mass strandings. The study, using a captive dolphin in a controlled experiment, found that sonar at high prolonged levels could even lead to slight behavioral changes.
Whale sharks threatened by interbreeding
(04/08/2009) The world's largest living fish, the whale shark, is threatened by interbreeding, according to a new study in PLoS ONE. Comparing the DNA of 68 individual whale sharks from eleven locations across the globe, geneticists found that the whale sharks had little genetic variation between the populations.
Reserves with roads still vital for reducing fires in Brazilian Amazon
(04/08/2009) Analyzing ten years of data from on fires in the Brazilian Amazon, researchers found that roads built through reserves do not largely hamper a reserve's important role in reducing the spread of forest fires. The finding is important as Brazil continues a spree of road-building while at the same time paving over existing roads.
Male chimps use meat to seduce
(04/07/2009) Male chimpanzees who share meat with females over a long period of time have a better chance of mating, according to a new study published in PLoS ONE. Studying chimps in Tai National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, researchers from the Mac Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology observed that female chimps have sex more frequently with males who have shared meat with them at least once as opposed to males who never share.
Arctic ecosystem in danger as ice thins
(04/07/2009) Recent dramatic news points to both poles undergoing transformation due to climate change. This weekend an ice bridge disintegrated on the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, leaving the whole shelf vulnerable to melting, and then yesterday new evidence was released of the impact of warming in the Arctic. Younger thinner ice has become the dominant type in the Arctic over the past five years, reports a new study led by Research Associate Charles Fowler of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research. The thinner ice does not bode well for the Arctic ecosystem, as the ice is more prone to summer melting.
Marine Protected Areas too small for whales and dolphins
(04/07/2009) Current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are too small to adequately serve whales and dolphins according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). The international organization is calling for a global network of MPAs to save the ocean's most beloved inhabitants. "A worldwide effort must be made urgently to identify and define whale and dolphin critical habitats and hot spots,” said WDCS Research Fellow, Erich Hoyt.
Stop staring at me: birds react to human gaze
(04/06/2009) A new study of jackdaws shows that these crow-like birds react to humans watching them, changing their behavior depending on who is looking and how the gaze moves.
Vital corridor for Asian elephants to be severed by government development in India
(04/05/2009) The largest wild population of Asian elephants in the world is threatened by development over a 2.5 kilometer wide corridor, according to Rainforest Information Centre which is a part of an international campaign to change the location of the development. The corridor, located in the Western Ghats of India, is the last unbroken forest leading the elephants from wet season to dry season feeding grounds. Unfortunately the corridor also connects two different Indian states: Kerala and Karnataka.
Black carbon linked to half of Arctic warming
(04/05/2009) Black carbon is responsible for 50 percent of the total temperature increases in the Arctic from 1890 to 2007 according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. Since 1890 the temperature in the Arctic has risen 1.9 degrees Celsius, linking black carbon to nearly an entire degree rise in Celsius or almost two degrees Fahrenheit.
Ice bridge collapses, leaving Wilkins Ice Shelf vulnerable
(04/05/2009) As though commenting on world leader's lack of progress in combating climate change at the G20 conference last week, an ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to the Antarctic continent broke off over the weekend. Long expected by scientists, the break is perhaps the beginning of the Wilkins Ice Shelf completely coming loose from Antarctica.
Amphibians could develop immunity against devastating fungal disease
(04/03/2009) The fungal disease chytridiomycosis has ravaged amphibian populations, including contributing to several extinctions. But new research may bring some hope for currently threatened amphibians.
Greenpeace opposes forest conservation initiative in Indonesia
(04/02/2009) Greenpeace criticized Indonesia's plan to reduce deforestation through a market-based emissions mechanism known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), reports AFP.
Former environment minister Silva honored with prestigious environmental award
(04/02/2009) Brazil's former Environment Minister Marina Silva was awarded Norway's $100,000 Sophie Prize for her efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest.
Replacing natural experiences with technology hurts humans and the natural world
(04/02/2009) What is the difference between a robotic dog and a real one? Or a plasma screen displaying high definition images of natural splendor and a window that looks out an on actual natural scene? According to psychologists from the University of Washington the difference is massive. Writing in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science Dr. Peter Kahn, a developmental psychologist, explores the different effects produced by humans interacting with actual nature and technological nature, i.e. technology meant to represent the natural world in some aspect.
World leaders meet to discuss future of rainforests
(04/02/2009) World leaders met Wednesday to discuss the role rainforests can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Brazil: 'Soy King', Environment Minister strike deal on Amazon deforestation
(04/02/2009) Meeting at the Katoomba payments-for-ecosystem-services conference in Cuiaba, Brazil, Carlos Minc, Brazil's Environment Minister, and Blairo Maggi, Governor of the State of Mato Grosso and the world's largest individual soy grower, put aside their ideological differences and agreed to grant a temporary reprieve for ranchers and farmers in the Amazonian state, allowing them up to four years to reforest their holdings to bring them up to legal code. Under Brazilian law landowners in the "legal Amazon" are required to maintain 80 percent forest cover on their holdings, but in practice, the regulation is widely ignored.
Ecological Cacao? Thinking about all sides of your chocolate bar
(04/01/2009) As concern for the preservation of forest eco-systems in the tropics has increased over past decades, there has been a growing consideration for ways to harmonize tropical agricultural production with the surrounding environment. The idea of shade grown products, especially coffee and cacao, have become the focus of scientific study and of marketable interest for environmentally conscientious consumers. However, the practical and dependable nature of the practice of shade growing for farmers and conservation objectives is still the matter of some debate.
Revolutionary new theory overturns modern meteorology with claim that forests move rain
(04/01/2009) Two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics, have published a revolutionary theory that turns modern meteorology on its head, positing that forests—and their capacity for condensation—are actually the main driver of winds rather than temperature. While this model has widespread implications for numerous sciences, none of them are larger than the importance of conserving forests, which are shown to be crucial to 'pumping' precipitation from one place to another. The theory explains, among other mysteries, why deforestation around coastal regions tends to lead to drying in the interior.
Massive population of rare Irrawaddy dolphins discovered in Bangladesh
(03/31/2009) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has discovered an unknown population of the rare Irrawaddy dolphin in Bangladesh numbering 6,000 individuals. The dolphins were found in the freshwater areas of the Sundarbans mangrove forest. Prior to this discovery, the largest known populations of Irrawaddy dolphins numbered only in the hundreds.
Hopeful conservation news emerges out of Madagascar political crisis
(03/31/2009) A bit of hopeful conservation news has finally emerged out of the political crisis in Madagascar, report local sources. Wednesday representatives from several NGOs active in conservation in Madagascar met with a minister from island nation's new government. The minister said his top priority was putting an end to illegal logging that emerged when rangers abandoned their posts and armed gangs moved into protected areas in the wake of the political crisis.
Development of Google Earth a watershed moment for the environment
(03/31/2009) Satellites have long been used to detect and monitor environmental change, but capabilities have vastly improved since the early 1970s when Landsat images were first revealed to the public. Today Google Earth has democratized the availability of satellite imagery, putting high resolution images of the planet within reach of anyone with access to the Internet.
Deforestation maps for Sumatra now available on Google Earth
(03/31/2009) Despite many years of research in conservation biology, precise maps of tropical deforestation that document the global spatial extent of tropical forests destruction are generally not available outside of the scientific community, says David Gaveau a researcher from Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) points out. For nearly seven years, Gaveau has been documenting forest destruction on the entire island of Sumatra since early 1970s using satellite technology, and he has found the way to make his full-resolution maps and scientific results public using Google Earth.
Two Sumatran elephants shot dead in Indonesian park
(03/31/2009) As reported by the Associated Press, two 20-year-old female Sumatran elephants were found on March 24th dead in the forests of Kerinci National Park due to gunshots in the head. The females had been partners with local rangers, who rode them to patrol the park to keep out illegal loggers.
Have Australian cane toads finally met their match?
(03/31/2009) This weekend in Queensland, Australia the government held the first 'Toad Day Out' where hundreds of locals went hunting for the invasive cane toad, catching an estimated 10,000 toads to be euthanized. At the same time, researchers announced in the journal Functional Ecology that they may have discovered a native Australian species that will finally rout the cane toad—and it's not man. The meat ant is a notoriously aggressive and abundant insect which is known to consume anything edible, including the scientists argue, cane toads.
Será a palmeira de óleo a próxima ameaça emergente á Amazônia?
(03/31/2009) A Bacia Amazônica parece sofrer a experiencia da rápida expansão da agricultura de palmeiras de óleo. Quase metade da Amazonia é apropriada para o cultivo de palmeira de óleo, e corporações da Malásia estão agora se mudando para a região para estabelecer novas plantações enquanto o governo Brasileiro está considerando uma lei que contaria as plantações de palmeira de óleo como “florestas” em relação á exigencia de reserva florestal nas terras do proprietário. São prováveis fortes incentivos econômicos para uma grande industria de palmeira de óleo Amazonensse, dadas as crescentes demandas globais por óleos comestíveis, produtos baseados em óleo e combustiveis. Temos duas grandes preocupações. Primeira, as plantações de palmeira de óleo são ecologicamente pobres, suportanto pouquissima vida selvagem que depende da floresta. Segunda, nós desacreditamos em afirmações políticas e corporativas que sugerem que as plantações de palmeiras de óleo estarão concentradas em terras previamente desflorestadas da Amazônia. Na realidade, produtores de palmeiras de óleo sao fortemente a favor de desmatar florestas primárias para plantações porque assim eles podem obter lucros imediatos da produção de madeira. Esses lucros são vitais para compensar os gastos com custos do estabelecimento da plantação e manutenção dos 3-5 anos iniciais até que as plantações se tornem rentáveis. Portanto, a agricultura de palmeiras de óleo poderiam em breve emergir como uma nova grande ameaça para o meio ambiente da Amazônia.
Amazonian region likely to become savannah due to burning, deforestation
(03/31/2009) A new analysis shows that the heavily-deforested Amazonian region of Mato Grosso is particularly susceptible to 'savannization' due to repeated burning that has likely depleted the region's soils of precious nutrients. According to the study, published in the Journal of Geophyscial Research, savannization, or the process of tropical ecosystems shifting to savannah, is likely in northern Mato Grosso even if no further deforestation occurs.
Carbon credits from forest conservation would crash carbon market, says Greenpeace
(03/30/2009) Inclusion of forest conservation in a market-based mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would crash carbon prices by swamping the market with cheap credits, claims a new report from Greenpeace. The environmental group said low carbon prices would "derail global efforts to tackle global warming" and cause "developing countries losing out on billions of dollars a year for investment in clean energy technologies".
Conservation groups condemn 'open and organized plundering' of Madagascar's natural resources
(03/30/2009) Eleven conservation organizations—including WWF, CI, and WCS—have banded together to condemn logging in Madagascar's world renowned parks during a time of political crisis. Taking advantage of the turmoil after interim president Andry Rajoelina took control of the country in a bloodless coup from former president Marc Ravalomanana on March 17th, pristine forests have been plundered for valuable wood, wildlife trafficking has increased, and illegal mining operations have begun say the conservation organizations.
Can carbon credits from REDD compete with palm oil?
(03/30/2009) Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) is increasingly seen as a compelling way to conserve tropical forests while simultaneously helping mitigate climate change, preserving biodiversity, and providing sustainable livelihoods for rural people. But to become a reality REDD still faces a number of challenges, not least of which is economic competition from other forms of land use. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the biggest competitor is likely oil palm, which is presently one of the most profitable forms of land use. Oil palm is also spreading to other tropical forest areas including the Brazilian Amazon.
Crabs feel pain, and remember it too
(03/30/2009) Research from Queen's University Belfast has raised new issues about the culinary arts. Long-thought by cooks and diners to be insensible to pain, a new study published in the journal Animal Behvaiour shows that crabs not only feel pain but remember it well-enough after the sensation has passed to affect their future decisions. According to Dr. Bob Elwood, who headed up the research, the study should bring about changes in how crustaceans like crabs are treated by the fishing and food industries.
Plant communities changing across the globe, says scientist Sasha Wright
(03/29/2009) Having studied plant communities across three continent and within widely varied ecosystems—lowland tropics, deciduous forests, grasslands, and enclosed ecosystems on hill-tops—graduate student Sasha Wright has gained a unique understanding of shifts in plant communities worldwide as they respond to pressures from land use and global climate change. “Plant communities are certainly changing,” Wright told Mongabay.com in a March 2009 interview. “These changes are undoubtedly affected by an increased occurrence of extreme weather events, temperature fluctuations, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, human land use, and in some cases urbanization of populations.”
Flu epidemic killing bonobos in Congo sanctuary
(03/29/2009) Six bonobos, a species of chimpanzee, have died from a flu epidemic in a month at the Lola Ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ten more have contracted the flu. “There is no fever. Antibiotics don’t do anything. The bonobos have severe respiratory infections and then they can’t breath for 3 days then they die,” writes a staff member on the sanctuary's blog through the conservation organization WildlifeDirect. The staff of Lola Ya Bonobo have sent out a plea for help and donations, as the flu continues to sweep through their center.
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